Tag: learning

Shedding Tears, Growing Stronger

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I have not cried as much all year as I have in the past month, and particularly over the last two weeks. Michael has been increasingly anxious, aggressive and challenging  from early am to late pm. I have cried not for me this time, but for him. How can I help him help himself when he is working so hard to keep me and his Dad out? I keep reminding him, we are  his team, but all I can do is sit and wait for him to calm down and listen.

The good news this time around is that Michael is getting great tools at school and Dad and I are on the same page at home for the most part. There have been slip ups. Of course, we’re human beings. Gone are my old fears and worries about how I wasn’t a good mother to Michael. How I was a failure and weak. Now, I just think, this is too hard sometimes for all of us. But I take a deep breath, do my own inner work and move on to being the best parent I can to Michael.

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 There have been good moments  amidst the bad and stressful ones. In the good moments, I have seen Michael’s joking nature, his intelligence, and amazing questions about the world around him. Then, there is the other side; the swearing, screaming, insults hurled at me and his Dad. “You never let me do things my way,” and “Why did you take my outing away?”  It has been an education trying to teach Michael about rules, having strategies to handle stress and insecurities, and about how he can make choices to listen and get good results, and not listen and get negative results.

After two agonizing weeks with fights all around, I think last night we made some headway. Michael came back from tennis with Dad. I took over to give Dad a break, and we had snack together and talked. He finally apologized for his behavior, and started asking questions about his responsibility in losing his park outing and drive after tennis. He was courteous at dinner, did his homework, and other than some silliness, did well at bedtime. I saw the breakthrough, and although challenges still lie ahead,  Michael is starting to connect the pieces for himself of actions and consequences.

Exceptional Parents, how do you navigate the challenging times with your child/dren?  It’s so important to trust your parenting instinct yet reach out for help too. You need to see two sides to the child’s story, theirs and yours, and to gently learn to find the solution to help them move over troubled waters. Patience, looking for the good moments that are there with all kids, and mindfulness when used properly, will be your friend and help your child succeed. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

 

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Finding the Right Tools To Help Your Child Handle Their Overpowering Emotions

 

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So yesterday Michael and I went on a power walk. Well, he power walked. I kept telling him to slow down. I’m in pretty good shape, but late afternoons are not the best time for me to exercise unless I’m alone and can go at my own pace. Still, I saw he needed it. He was a boy on a mission to rid himself of stress. As with other times, he walked and talked quickly, then gradually as he began to relax he slowed down his pace. I was relieved, yet as always, worried about the kind of stress he carries inside of him. Right now the main issues are about working and focusing at school, as well as  learning to sit quietly in a body that has hard time doing that due to his sensory issues. Michael also has a hard time asking for help or letting people know he is in distress.

I am experimenting with different ways to help him learn to calm down. Right now he pushes emotions down and then explodes in the evenings when things don’t go one hundred percent his way. Being told what to do all day is extremely draining and stressful, so at home he bargains and tries to change the rules on EVERYTHING. It’s been a process, and we are still teaching him that all of us have to follow rules, listen to either teachers or bosses, and find ways to manage our anxiety, stress and negative emotions. Exercise, yoga and different sensory tools can help. I am constantly adding or taking away from our toolbox. Talking too and giving him the space to share is also important.

 

Photo by: Frank Mckenna at Unsplash

 

This is challenging for adults, but even more so for kids, and exceptional kids have a more difficult time due to their very complex nervous systems. I remind him that he needs and can always turn to TEAM MICHAEL for help. It’s been tough though. Positive moments have been our talks about music, watching his agility improve climbing on park equipment, and he is interested in going on his scooter again soon. I’m also happy he is continuing with tennis. It, swimming, and soon soccer, will be great outlets for his nervous energy release. As parents, we have to find outlets for our kids. As with neuro typical ones, sports and being active is very important, but there are always other things to consider. Would they benefit from talking to a therapist privately? Do they need a new more structured home routine?  An educator can help with that. Are they sleeping enough? Parents, as teacher, caregiver and therapist have to not be afraid to try any of the above (or all) so that they can give their child the best tools for success out there.

Exceptional Parents, what’s in your toolbox to help your child regulate their emotions? Have you made any changes recently? Sometimes shaking things up a bit can be helpful. Our kids are growing all the time so what worked previously may not anymore. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches. Talk to other parents. Talk to professionals. Read books and articles. Remember, you are your child’s voice to the world and can help explain them to their team the best. In the end, it’s all about giving them success in life to be the best they can be. Until next time.

 

Looking for new tools to help with anxiety management? Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

Exploring Old Places In A New Way-My Exceptional Son’s Thirst for Going On Walking and Driving Expeditions

 

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I love Michael. He is tireless, has lots of energy, and has a sense of adventure. Sometimes as his Mom, I don’t want to go places after school. It is late afternoon. I am tired after a long workday, plus the fact there is tons of stuff to be done in the house. But for Michael it is boring being home. He is not a child who likes to play with toys. He has always been more interested in people and places. This is a good thing, but I also have to be careful to remind him of the rules of social etiquette when we are out: no kissing or hugging strangers, no talking too loudly, stay close to his father and I. You know, basic rules that most of us know. These are hard for kids on the spectrum to grasp at first, but once it is explained to them, they never forget it. Still, going on our “adventures” as Michael has called them, has taught me a lot about myself, about being spontaneous and about  seizing the moment. Ironically, it took my exceptional son who is so focused on routine and predictability to teach me that. But taught me that he has, and now , I look at our adventures as a chance e to try something new and show Michael that embracing the unknown can be a fun thing.

The last few days we have been taking long walks around our neighborhood. It has been a good workout for both of us, and I know for Michael it has been extremely helpful in getting him to work through the stress of adjusting to school and its responsibilities. Sometimes we will be silent on our walks and sometimes we will talk. I let Michael set the tone. It has helped me see him in another light. He also gets to have some control when he will tell me what streets are where and show me the different twists and turns we can take in heading home. Of course, I always make sure we agree at home on the route. Once we got into a fight as his definition of a short walk and mine were not the same. So now, we go through the itinerary beforehand. And it has been successful.

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It is the same when we drive to stores. Michael loves to explore in the Dollar Stores. He equally loves small second hand shops and bookstores, and is happy to window shop and browse seeing where everything is and learning the ins and outs of the store. It is fun as through him, I will inevitably see things I took for granted before, I maybe didn’t notice on the shelves or racks. He is a very keen observer and takes me by the hand showing me all the things there are. It becomes an adventure of learning for both of us and I am always excited to share in these trips with Michael. He is teaching me as much as I am teaching him.

Exceptional Parents, what adventures have you gone on lately with your Exceptional Children? How have they helped you see the world differently? All our children have a unique way of viewing events that look mundane to us. Let them carry you away to that realm of excitement, and see how their faces light up when you are present with them sharing it. That is what real growth is about for both of you. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

 

Learning From One Another By Building Bridges

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Today is my monthly Coffee Break group at the local community center. I have pretty much been attending these meetings for the past six years quite regularly. I’ve missed a few due to work or other family reasons, but they are important to me. Seeing the other Moms who have become some of my closest friends discuss their struggles and triumphs with their children and themselves, is always so eye-opening. It is my constant reminder to myself how important connections are, to ourselves, to our children and to others.

Michael is starting to get out more in the community now. He loves engaging with people of all ages, and as I’ve written many times, has gotten his Dad and I out of our shells socially too. Of course, we have to redirect him away from his own interests and show him how to talk to others, and he is slowly learning about feelings and emotions outside his own. He will surprise me sometimes with his compassion. Yesterday he accidentally stepped on my toe. When I said ouch, he immediately apologized and looked so sad. “I’m sorry I hurt you Mommy.” It touched me to see how deeply he is learning to care. Of course, I knew it was an accident and thanked him for caring then told him I was alright. On the other hand, there will be times, and it is almost funny, that he doesn’t get his way, and he will say, “I don’t like you. You’re not a good Mom. I like Daddy more.” He will inevitably say the same thing to Dad when he is upset with Dad. We’re learning. 🙂

 

 

 

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I am also learning how to reach out to others, other Moms, other children, other friends outside of my support group. We are all in this life together, and we need to remember to uplift one another on our journey. Everyone has a purpose, and I believe that we all have a responsibility to help others in the world find their purpose. They also have that responsibility to us. Those that are enlightened, helping others and living their life purpose already do that naturally. Think of nurturing parents, health care providers, volunteers. All of these people give of themselves to uplift others. I know that Michael, and exceptional children like him, are here to remind all of us to do that to everyone in our life as they do that to us.

Exceptional Parents, do you connect with people around you in your family, friendship circle, work, support group? It’s so important to remember you are not alone and by reaching out you remind others that they are not alone. Parenting an exceptional child is hard work for us and it is hard for them to be parented by us. Take care of yourselves and those around you by sharing, listening and helping build connections and bridges. Until next time.

 

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

First Day of School: What This Exceptional Mom Has Learned

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Here we are. The day has arrived. It’s back to school today. The summer months pass by so quickly, and each year I find I learn new things about myself and Michael. I learn what we are both made of, and what we both still need to learn about the other one. I have gotten into the groove of organizing his school stuff, and this year like last  year Michael helped me as well. I usually have all his clothes labeled reasonably on time or at least within the first week back. 🙂 What is harder is navigating the stresses and strains that occur during the first week, and even first few weeks back at school. Michael is a good teacher though, and I am learning how to read him better in the last week before school starts. That is always a tough week and this year was no exception.

I  even anticipated the stress that would come the week before school. I nearly made the week before losing my temper, but then again, I’m human. After Michael and I made up over some fights we had, I explained to Michael about how important it is to use our strategies to handle our anger. I got mad at him and myself, but I immediately started to implement my strategies of going off alone to breathe, calm down, and refocus. I am encouraging Michael to go back to his drawing board and find new strategies that work for him too. This is difficult as he is not able to do this on his own yet, and I don’t want to be telling him what to do all the time. That leads to more anxiety and stress for both of us.

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What I am also slowly learning as an exceptional parent to an exceptional child, is just how much guidance I need to give, and how much more I need to step back, let him make mistakes and learn from them. This is hard for any parent, but watching your exceptional child struggle with anger, aggression and stress in general can be heartbreaking for all. We are making progress in that he is talking to me about how he feels. Even if it occurs after a meltdown or fight, that is progress. It is not easy, but then neither is any kind of parenting. I take comfort knowing that every day I learn a little more about my strength as Michael does about his. I also take comfort that my community of exceptional parents is going through the very same thing as I write this, and will have their ups and downs with their child over the course of the next month as children adjust to the new school year.

Exceptional Parents, what have you learned about “back to school” from your Exceptional Children? Are they still teaching you as much as you are teaching them? If so, that’s great. None of us knows everything, and as long as we give our children and ourselves the space we need to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow, we are all on the right path to understanding each other better. Wishing all of you and your children a great back to school! Until next time.

Feeling stressed about fall and back to school? You are not alone. Download my FREE EBOOK on “5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” here: http://www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. 

 

 

 

How To Transition Smoothly from Day Camp to Mom Camp

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So here we are. Today is the last day Michael has day camp. As of next Monday, he is home with me for one week then we have our family holidays together with Dad. I am nervous/ excited as Michael would say. I am nervous because I know there will inevitably come a time when Michael will be bored, a friend won’t be available for a play date, and we will have to improvise. This will be a little challenging. However, I am also excited because Michael and I know how to communicate so much better. I know what he needs to stay busy, and that is structure to our unstructured time. So, as I blogged yesterday, as much as is possible we plan out the week on paper, with rain plans if we can’t be outdoors, and the last two years it went reasonably well. Last year, I only felt the pinch of stress near the end of our week home alone together, and then Dad was home and BOOM another change which we navigated well, the family vacation. But more on that in another post. 🙂

What also makes me excited is that I have finally figured out something my wonderful previous therapist said, “what do you need to do to be at your best.” What I need to do is meditate, exercise, have time alone and time out with friends and my partner to stay focused, calm, there for Michael, me and everyone else. Now that I am whole, I see things so much more clearly. I see how Michael and I can handle challenges, behavior and anxiety better, and what he needs to feel calm and in control. I have found the following techniques work to help from the transition of day camp to Mommy camp as I call it.

How To Transition from Day Camp to Mommy Camp:

  1. Start talking about the end of structure: I always start talking with Michael about the end of organized camp mid week of his last week. We start brainstorming for activities.
  2. Actually talk concretely then write out the week: This has helped Michael and even me to structure our home time. For example our week next week looks something like this for the first few days: Monday- Mom works 8:00-10:30/ Mom and Michael play tennis 11-12/ Lunch 12-1/ Cleanup 1-1:30/Pool or  park and shopping 2-5 pm/Home to cook supper 5-6.
  3. A week or so before start organizing play dates or formal activities: I called up two friends. One booked a play date with us, and the other one is getting back to me. Michael also reminded me of two friends we could potentially see. I will call the Moms up this weekend and see if they are free to get together.
  4. Involve the child with helping with chores: This is a toughie, but I am trying now that Michael is older to involve him in helping me around the house so things go faster for our mother/son time. We talk in advance about it, and if he really wants to chill out, I tell him it means we’ll have less time to do stuff as I need to finish the housework AND my writing and other business work since I work from home.

Exceptional Parents, how hard are transitions for your Exceptional Children? It’s a challenge for all of our kids, but something necessary they need to learn to navigate. The best way parents can help prepare them, is to structure activities by writing things down, asking the child what he/she would reasonably like to do, and delivering what you reasonably can. You also have to allow them personal downtime, as well as making sure they understand that you need some downtime as well as time for your work. If you are honest, start in advance BEFORE the change occurs,  and you make sure your child is aware of what is coming, your chances of a successful transition from an organized activity to home look much better. Until next time.

 

 

Exceptional Organizing by Drawing Or Writing Out The Day

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Michael’s Day by Michael 🙂

 

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite two words these days-strategies and tools. Why? Well, it’s because my little guy has taught me the value of having good strategies and tools at your disposal whether you are an exceptional child or parent. We all need to have ways to organize our day, our thoughts and what is going on around us. Why should our exceptional children be different? Actually, they thrive with this and it helps them even more.

Many years ago when my son was in an adapted preschool there was a guest who came to talk to the parents at one of the evening workshops. These featured an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, as well as a nutritionist. Another evening, it was the father of a son with autism. He and his son were artists, and the son, though limited verbally, expressed himself through drawing and literally drew out his day and how he was feeling. It helped lessen his anxiety and communicate better with his Dad, teachers and therapists. There in that workshop I learned something valuable which I shared with Michael. After pictograms no longer worked, I began drawing stick figures of his day on paper so he would know what is happening. I would insert them in social stories. Then last year as Michael’s handwriting skills improved exponentially, he looked at me and told me he would now write out the day. What started as lines has now progressed to the words you see in the pictures in this blog post. Amazing! He will often ask me what is happening, then proceed to write out the day. It has helped him deal with anxiety, frustration and anger. Last week all I had to say to defuse a mini tantrum, was remind him to write out the day as we had talked about it the night before.

Whatever writing or drawing level your child is at, encourage them on paper to “draw or write out” their day. Michael used to do lines. No matter. As that father taught me all those years ago, they had meaning for Michael and I labeled them:

___________- park

_________-lunch

___________-grandmas’s house

etc. If your child cannot draw or write, do it for them and talk to them about it. Or, if they are partly on their way to doing it, help them hand over hand. You will seen the amazing results in time with this technique.

Exceptional Parents, what tools help you and your Exceptional Child best handle the day? For some, it is pictograms, for some drawing, for some writing. Whatever the method, help your child learn to organize their day. Organize yours in a similar way. If they see you are a creature ruled by good habits, good tools and strategies, that will motivate them to find things that work to lessen their anxiety and stress. Until next time.

 

 

Mommy’s Pride and Prejudice-The Report Card

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I had another one of those moments yesterday afternoon at my kitchen table where tears were running down my face. And, as I have told Michael many times about his crazy Mom, they were happy tears. I was reading Michael’s report card, and was so very proud of my little guy as I always am. Every semester, every year, he is growing, learning and maturing. It is beautiful as his mother to see my little flower bloom. And every year, the teachers and other professionals have the same thing to say, “he is a pleasure to teach,” “he is cheerful, tries hard and is a great helper to friends” etc. It’s enough to make me go through the whole Kleenex box! The only thing I catch myself doing each year, and this feeling gets more pronounced as my eyes read and the closer I get to the end of the report card, if Michael will get moved up academically. I used to obsess about academics when he first started talking, then reading. I want all the doors of the world to continue opening for him and I know that an education does that.  But, I am in the process of trying to talk that Joanne down.

I tell other parents, as I have learned,  that academics are not everything. That yes, it is important for our children to learn all they can, but we can’t push them to do what maybe they are not ready to do. I also have learned thanks to wonderful Mom friends I have, one in particular, that social skills are even more important for our children who struggle with making friends, how to talk to people, and most importantly, how to emotionally regulate themselves. Academics and learning will come, the other things will be the real determinants of our kids having close friends, finding and keeping jobs. Temple Grandin said it too.

So how can I be so proud of my little guy who has learned a lot of those skills and continues to grow in that area as well as academically, yet disappointed a little when I get  to the end of the report card and it says he will continue in the same academic stream as before? There will be more subjects he will be learning. He will definitively be challenged as he always is. The school he goes to is amazing, yet Mom, the perfectionist, is pushing. Or could it be that that is the mother hen in me, wondering if I am doing enough to push him, make him competitive and ready for the world? I tell other parents to let go and that all the programs at his wonderful adapted school are created equal. And I believe it. Sort of. Kind of. OK, I guess I have to face the fact that I am still working on accepting it. I have a friend whose son is in the higher academic stream. He struggles with it sometimes, the homework, the tougher academics, and I am so glad for her honest feedback about the pros and cons of being in this program, just like there are pros and cons in Michael’s program.

I see deep down inside that Michael is fine where he is. He tells me himself, by his comments when and where he is challenged. He enjoys doing some homework and not a lot. What is meant to be will be. Exactly what I help other parents understand, that all the programs are tailored to your child overall (and that is true), is what I will continue to remind myself of one year at a time.

Exceptional Parents, are your hard on yourselves and your Exceptional Child in the name of learning and progress? Do you push yourselves or your child or increase your expectations when everyone is just fine? Don’t worry if the answer is yes. Acknowledge that you are being a little critical, take a step back, and remember, there is a Higher Power out there working in the universe to make sure you and your child are exactly where they are meant to be. Feel that. Believe it. And it will be. Until next time.

 

An Exceptional Heart to Heart And Practicing Compassionate Listening

 

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God and the Universe gave both Michael and I a major teachable moment, well really day, today. Michael woke up this morning complaining of a sore throat and of not feeling well. He had told me he hadn’t slept the best. Ok he could stay home I decided, but in case he was well and was using this as a “get out of school free pass day,” I put down rules. He would play quietly, read books, watch TV, do his computer games and we would not be going anywhere. His library books were due, but even that would have to wait until the end of the day right before supper, when I would see he was a hundred percent better and would be returning to school the next day. Otherwise I would go to the library and return them when Dad got home.

Well, we were both right. He needed the day off and wasn’t well, but I was right too. He was not physically sick. He was anxious and overwhelmed by two school subjects he is struggling with, or rather the exercises done in those subjects which are too challenging for him. And he does not like to ask for help or always understand the explanation. All the emotions of why he has to study these subjects, why he doesn’t understand, and fear of the teacher getting angry came out. Most were the result of his own worries and confidence issues with learning, his very overactive imagination, but he needed to talk, to find his center and as always, he came clean with me about why he asked to stay home.

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“Mommy, I’m not sick. I was so nervous. I don’t like doing reading and math. They’re hard. I can’t do them.”

“Did you tell the teacher you’re having trouble honey?”

“Yes, but she thinks I’m pretending. She gets mad.”

“She doesn’t help you at all?”

“No, she helps me, but when I don’t understand she gets mad.”

“Are you paying attention when she explains it to you buddy?”

“I look away sometimes and don’t always understand what’s she’s saying. It’s boring stuff. Why do I have to learn what I don’t like?”

“We all have to do things we don’t like sometimes, buddy. One day you’ll be able to study only what you like, when you are older. Until then, you need to learn all kinds of subjects.”

We had a really good heart to heart, and then I found myself going over with Michael strategies for calming down his breathing, so that he could focus on learning everything and doing everything, even the things he didn’t like. It was quite fitting, as I have had to relearn this lesson lately in my own life, with reteaching myself in meditation and yoga to let go of worries, fears about the future, about the past. I also had a chance to practice “compassionate listening,” a practice that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about in his book “You Are Here.” It’s important to really listen to someone so they feel heard and can heal. We heal them, ourselves and the world. Michael is reminding me about my own worrying, which though I have it under control, sometimes goes astray. He is helping me practice what I preach and reminding me of my strategies.

Exceptional Parents, what do your Exceptional Children’s negative or anxious actions tell you about their struggles? What do your anxious moments tell you about your own? Remember, it’s not always evident what is bothering your child or what is bothering you. You have to dig deeper. A sore throat, stomach, muscle aches can be a virus, tension or worry. Always remember that getting in touch with your body shows your child how to get in touch with theirs, and let them know they can talk to you about anything. That is how you will both grow stronger. Until next time.